Toxic State Records
NYC trio Blu Anxxiety sit at a fairly unlikely nexus of sounds. A huge portion of their aesthetics, both visual and musical are rooted in classic deathrock (the sound that informed lead man Dracula O aka Chi Orengo’s previous project Anasazi), but executed with a nod to electro, nrg, darkwave and hip-hop. Blu Anxxiety have described their sound as “dark freestyle”, and that’s probably about as accurate as you’ll get to summarizing the livewire camp energy apparent on Plaay Dead, a collection of most of their existing tracks.
Orengo’s outsized personality and vocal charisma is a huge part of what makes the record such a unique quantity. Shifting effortlessly between sardonic quips, deadly serious poetics and political fire in rapidfire succession, there’s almost no moment that he isn’t commanding the listener’s attention. Take “Skeleton Farm”; Orengo starts with a shot at Spider-Man (?!), before morphing into a pitch-perfect Rozz Williams moan, followed by a punk growl punctuated with hip-hop ad libs (“That’s a Snapple Fact kid!”). It’s such a striking mix of deliveries that it’s almost possible to miss that the track is also a fiery polemic that mixes bizarre horror imagery (“Breakdancing with the President’s head”) with legit calls to action and references to the Mayflower Compact. But that’s kind of Blu Anxxiety’s whole MO: eradicating the distinction between the serious and unserious with whiplash switch-ups, as on “Internet Terrorist” where the refrain of “Wrestlemania / Transylvania” sits comfortably with anti-police sentiment.
Musically, the record is largely electronic, mixing slappy drum machines, thick bass and chiming bells. In some cases this sounds fairly close to modern darkwave (“Personal Hell”), although it often invokes a much stranger brew of influences. Check out how the overdriven synth lead and metronomic hi-hat programming on “Haunt Myself” sound like classic electro fed through a woodchipper, an aesthetic mirrored in the NRG demolition that informs their cover of Real Life’s “Send Me an Angel”. Guitar does make a few appearances, but tends to steer the music in more trad structures as “Cat’s Eye and Corpse” and “Uninvited to the Funeral Home” play as grimy goth-punk, albeit with electronic rhythms and spooky keys for filigree.
The best compliment I can give Plaay Dead is that it reminds me of the free-ranging attitude and jeering attitude of Alien Sex Fiend. Like that storied act Blu Anxxiety don’t seem interested in sticking to the formal rules of genre: they execute dark music tropes faithfully in one moment, and turn them upside down and inside out in the next. It’s a hell of a ride over the space of nine tracks and about as bracing an introduction to the New York ghoul gang as you could ever want or imagine. Recommended.